In a landmark judgement, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has ruled that the family of a terminally-ill person, who decides to stop treatment against medical advice and dies, cannot be denied insurance claim.
The court said the patient’s desire not be treated was an issue of “patient autonomy” and “embracing dignity in death”.
Dismissing the petition of Oriental Insurance Company Limited, which had argued that the family of an insured person leaving treatment against medical advice was not entitled for claim after death, the HC upheld the order of a claims tribunal which had asked the company to pay Rs 35.46 lakh in damages.
Medical experts feel the HC order is significant since many insurance companies tend to use LAMA or ‘Leave Against Medical Advice’ as justification to deny family of a deceased its claims.
The bench of Justice K Kannan said last week, “Whether the patient shall be allowed to die by withdrawal of life support is quite different from a patient expressing desire not to be treated. In the former, we are broaching issue of passive euthanasia and in the latter, it is an issue of patient autonomy.”
The order could come as a major relief to many such families who are burdened with huge medical costs.